Almost sent ‘back’ to a place he doesn’t really know
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Edgar Niebla was a little boy when his family came looking for a peaceful place they could call home. They found it in the Roaring Fork Valley. And for 20 years they have worked tirelessly to be model citizens – working two jobs, excelling in school.
Edgar recently graduated from Colorado Mountain College’s Police Academy and planned to be a police officer. But on the morning of April 28, local police and 10 ICE agents took him from his home and prepared to send him to a place he never really knew, Mexico.
Niebla: I came here in 1990 with my two sisters, my mom and dad. I was 7 years old. My parents were looking for a better future for their children. My dad was a cab driver in Sinaloa, Mexico, and a couple days before we decided to leave, someone put a gun to his head and took all of his money. That’s when he realized he had to make a living for his family that didn’t involve risking his life on a daily basis. So we packed our bags and left.
We eventually made our way to Basalt where we were enrolled in school. The first year of school was pretty traumatic. My sisters and I didn’t know what to do, but we paid attention and we were speaking English a year later. I started school in the third grade and by the first quarter of fourth grade I got an award for being the top speller in my class. I still feel pretty good about that.
Gallacher: What was high school like for you?
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Niebla: I wasn’t very involved in high school. I wasn’t one of the popular kids. I had to work to help my family. During my sophomore and junior year, I went from my house to school and from school to work. During my senior year, I joined the baseball team but I had school, baseball and two jobs. I had to decide to either quit working or play baseball. My parents really needed the help so I quit baseball. That was high school for me.
That’s why I have been pretty active in my church as a youth group leader. I was always working in high school and my parents had two jobs. There were times when I felt like no one was there for me. So I want to be there for kids like me who are looking for a young adult to look up to and help them stay out of trouble.
Gallacher: Tell me about your family?
Niebla: My family is the closest thing to my heart. I am very close to my sisters, Erica and Alba. My parents are devoted to their kids. Ever since we got here my parents have worked two jobs just to get enough ahead to afford a trailer home for us so that we wouldn’t have to share a place with another family.
Gallacher: What are your family’s values?
Niebla: My family values unity, trust and communication more than anything. We can talk to each other about anything and everything at any given time. We are a tight unit, and we value our time together.
Gallacher: Can you remember a particularly hard time for your family?
Niebla: The most recent one was on April 28th when a Carbondale policeman and an Eagle County Sheriff’s deputy and 10 ICE agents came knocking on my door. They picked me up and took me to Glenwood and then to the processing center in Aurora. As I understand it, the plan was to have me on a plane to Juarez Friday morning. But my family, the community, the state and the nation all came together and I was released Thursday afternoon.
Gallacher: What was going through your mind at the time of your arrest?
Niebla: I wasn’t afraid. I trusted that everything was going to be fine, but I was worried for my mom. She was really upset. I woke up to her crying in the hallway. From the sound of her cries I thought that something terrible had happened to my sister’s kids, my nephews and my niece.
Mom told me that the police and ICE agents were outside the house. I got my things together, hugged my sister and my mom and dad and walked out.
Gallacher: You came from Mexico 20 years ago when you were 7. Where is home for you?
Niebla: This valley is home to me. When the officer was booking me he asked me, “What’s your address in Mexico?” And the first thing that I said was, “I don’t have one. Carbondale is my address.” Going back to Mexico for me would be like entering a totally different world. I don’t know that system. We left Sinaloa 20 years ago because it was a dangerous place. Now people are dying everyday in the drug wars.
This is home and growing up here has meant so much to me. It’s calm and quiet and family oriented. I don’t think my parents could have chosen a better place to raise us kids.
Gallacher: How does it feel to be treated like a stranger in the place you call home?
Niebla: It hurts, but my family and my community have lifted my spirits. Right now when I walk down the street I hold my head high, because I am an immigrant and I belong here.
Gallacher: Has your family tried to become U.S. citizens?
Niebla: We have been trying since 1996. We’ve spent more than $50,000 and made a lot of mistakes because we trusted people who said they were attorneys and assured us they could help us with the paperwork. We applied as a family unit and my mother and my sisters were approved and are now U.S. citizens. My dad and I are still trying. Eventually, I got a letter from immigration telling me that I had to leave.
Gallacher: Who were these attorneys who took your family’s money?
Niebla: In Mexico, a notary is a lawyer. They do a lot of the legal paperwork. But in the United States a notary is totally different. But many immigrants don’t know that and some people take advantage of their ignorance. We thought this person who said he was a notary could help us, instead he made a mess of things and took our money.
Lots of immigrants are told by these “notaries” that they can help. Most immigrants don’t understand that they have to go through an immigration attorney. By the time they figure it out, they have lost a lot of money and their paperwork has been lost or misfiled. This is a real problem in the immigrant community, and we are trying to help educate people about the process.
Gallacher: What is your dream for yourself and your family?
Niebla: My dream is to be able to walk freely like anybody else and be proud of who we are and what we have accomplished. There are millions of people like me who have a similar dream. They want to walk freely in their home because this is home to many of us.
Immigrant Stories runs every Monday in the Post Independent. To read other Immigrant Stories go to http://www.immigrantcolorado.blogspot.com.
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